The Queen of Bakersfield & Other Tales of Dust & Moonlight, Dolphinback Theatre Company, Rhino in Winter festival, at the Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe. Originally performed a year ago at the Lunar Cabaret and later moved to the Chicago Fringe Festival, this loose collection of stories and songs by Greg Owens explores the well-mined world of trailer parks, beehive hairdos, and Elvis worship. To Owens’s credit, he also captures a less often discussed side of blue-collar life–its unwed mothers, suicidal depression, and diminishing job opportunities. But it’s very odd to see moments with the tang of truth side by side with scenes that are total bullshit. “Big Wayne and the Queen of Bakersfield” ends with a woman accidentally driving over a lunkhead and then, finding him dazed but still alive, cradling him as if she were Mary holding Jesus.
Kelly Ann Corcoran, battling a sinus infection the night I saw the show, performs this material indifferently. Her singing range is limited, and she has a tendency to go flat. Yet she does the songs in the show–all of them knockoffs of 50s rock-and-roll hits–with much more energy than she puts into the stories. Perhaps the two-piece band (Owens and Paul Leisen) carries her along. Or perhaps Corcoran is too close to the material, some of which echoes events in her own life. Or maybe she and director C. Russell Muth just don’t have a clue how to make Owens’s flawed, uneven tales seem stronger than they are. –Jack Helbig